By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
October 3, 2017-In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. As Columbus Day approaches next week, the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is very pleased to honor a proud Italian-American who has done a lot for the game, Rocco Morelli, as our Personality of the Month for October.
Our honoree was born in Calabria on the “toe” of Italy. His father emigrated to the United States and Rocco joined him when he was 15 years old. Rocco was so good at soccer that as a teenager, he played for adult teams in the Italian-American Soccer League (IASL). During his amateur career, he scored goals for the Brooklyn Italians, Fiorentina, Inter-Giuliana, Inter-Napoli and Napoli.
For college, Rocco played two years at the College of Staten Island, where he was selected as All-American. He transferred to the University of Maryland, receiving All-American and All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors and made the NCAA record books in 1968, scoring four goals on four shots in the NCAA final, a 4-3 win over San Jose State. His two other goals in the NCAA tournament came on two shots in the quarterfinals vs. St. Louis University. Rocco is the only player to have ever scored six goals on only six shots of the NCAA tournament. He is still the third all-time leading scorer in the history of Maryland men's soccer, even though he played only two years for the Terrapins. He was drafted by the Washington Whips of the North American Soccer League (NASL) but the team folded before he could play a game.
So Rocco became a very successful coach, spending six years for Eastern New York’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) and six years as the head coach for the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) Academy. In college soccer, Rocco coached both the New York Maritime and Polytechnic University men’s teams. With Maritime, Rocco was honored with the 2007 New York Metro NISOA chapter Sportsmanship Award and as 2010 Skyline Conference Coach of the Year. Rocco holds an “A” License plus the United Soccer Coaches State, Regional, Youth National, National, Advanced National, Premier and Professional Development licenses.
Rocco and his wife Dalia raised four children at their home in North Bellmore. Daughters Dahlia and Maria were interested in the arts while growing up while Rocco Jr. and Ettore were interested in soccer. Ironically since their father was a top goal scorer, the boys played goalkeeper for LIU Post and Molloy College respectively over a decade ago.
After Rocco’s wife Dalia died of cancer on March 1, 2004, the family has funded a LIJSL scholarship in her name for the past 14 years. Rocco was also inducted into the Eastern New York Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007 for all his good works.
While vacationing in his native country, Rocco was reading about the tens of thousands of immigrants from Libya and Tunisia who have arrived in Italy, fleeing the unrest in their home countries. Many of these immigrants did not have money or anything to occupy their time, resulting in increased crime and other associated issues in many parts of the country.
Seeing the need, Rocco gathered over 30 immigrants from eight different African countries together, purchased uniforms and soccer gear for them and provided hours of soccer training each day of his vacation for the past five summers. Rocco became the mentor and father figure for these immigrants, helping and advising them in all aspects of their life.
Rocco on the far right with the refugees he coaches in Italy
This is in addition to his work with underprivileged kids in Hempstead, Long Island. Rocco’s free program offers all day soccer clinics for over 250 youths from ages 8 to 16. Additionally, Rocco held clinics for a series of other camps from churches and schools for another 650 kids and the players were featured on TV channel Telecare. All the players, whether in Hempstead or in Italy, receive T-shirts courtesy of Eastern New York.
Living on Marco Island, Florida today, Rocco serves as the Technical Director of the Marco Island Soccer Club. Congratulations to Rocco Morelli, Eastern New York’s Personality of the Month for October.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.